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I love checking out new authors and finding new voices, and I am very glad I checked out this one. I laughed my way through this book and couldn't wait to find out where Leon was. I was delighted that there was a well thought out and non obvious conclusion to the book. I also thought the story line was very original. I really enjoyed it and haven't been able to get into another book since I finished this one because I was sorry that it ended and everything seems dull in comparison to it since.
When Andie Appleton goes on holiday to Las Vegas, the last thing she expects is to fall in love. But when she meets Leon, her attraction for him is instant and very much reciprocated. When they're separated during a fire drill, Andie ends up returning to Ireland alone, having been unable to find Leon. Andie ends up writing a series of columns about her search for Leon before her holiday ended and when Eire TV pick up on it, they send Andie back to Vegas with camera-man Colm to try and find Leon with no expense spared. Andie's search soon spirals out of control, and soon the entire world is gripped by Andie's search, everyone except Leon himself that is. Why, though, does Leon not want to be found?
Looking For Leon is Shirley Benton's debut novel, which first came to my attention in late 2009 when her book deal was announced. I thought her novel sounded very interesting and I was very keen to read it because the premise was so intriguing. It sounded like the ultimate romantic novel, showing the lengths something will go to find someone they had a connection with after one night in Vegas. I finally got my hands on a copy, thanks to Shirley herself and when it finally arrived after two torturous weeks I was eager to get stuck in.
Whenever I read a synopsis of a book, my imagination runs wild with the possibilities of what's going to happen. There's no doubt that the synopsis of a novel is what entices the reader in, and the synopsis for Looking For Leon sounded brilliant. I expected a mad-cap Vegas adventure as Andie desperately searches for the mysterious Leon. Unfortunately, my mind was wrong. Yes, there is a search for Leon but it's much more sedate than that. And to tell you the truth, it wasn't what I expected. Because despite the numerous interviews Andie does, there's very little physical 'searching' being done. It wasn't particularly fast-paced either and after a pretty speedy start, I found myself getting a little bored during the middle part of the book.
But like I said, the book starts well, if a little frantically. There's a funny exchange between Andie and her mother that made me laugh - about what happened to Andie's car when she was on holiday in Vegas, it 'met' some other cars! We then go back to the last night of Andie's holiday in Vegas when she met Leon, before coming back to the present. Andie's boss seizes on the idea of Andie's fruitless search that she concocted for her final day in Vegas and Andie ends up going back to Vegas in her bid to track Leon down. The book does suffer in the middle though because there is a bit of a lull in proceedings, despite Lindy's (Andie's PR agent) best efforts to make Andie look peculiar and a bit desperate. While Andie searches for Leon, she also has to put up with camera-man Colm whom she doesn't particularly like.
While Andie is a very likeable heroine, I wasn't a fan at all of the way she treats Colm during the novel. She's very mean to him at the beginning and treats him horribly for no real reason (because he apparently invaded her personal space). It rubbed me up the wrong way but I had a suspicious feeling as to why it was occurring. We don't know much about Leon, as he isn't in much of the novel but from what we learn, he's a man I could have grown to love had we had more of him. As for camera-man Colm, I liked him, despite Andie constantly ripping him to shreds about (gasp!) bringing biscuits from home! He didn't do anything majorly wrong, besides being a bit of a loner, and he was a wonderful character. Those three make up the bulk of the cast, with a few background characters, Lindy is one whom I didn't really like, and there's also Phillipe who works at the MGM in Vegas and whom I adored!
What saved the book from being a total disaster for me was the ending. I was meandering towards the end, thinking that it wasn't what I expected, wondering why Leon hadn't turned up, consigning it to the scrap heap, when up popped the exact reason Leon hadn't been in touch. It shocked me completely and I wasn't expecting it at all, and after that I was desperate to finish the book, but now because I was fed up, but because I was eager to learn it all and see how it ended. I must admit, I knew early on how the book would end in certain ways, but the curve-ball that came was totally unexpected. So despite being luke-warm for the majority of the novel, I thought the ending really brought it up for me. Shirley Benton is definitely good at the curve-balls, and probably for the rest of the novel as well, I just expected a lot more than we were given, it has to be said. For the ending alone, I would recommend this book, and it does provide a few laughs (none more so that the car meeting other cars... the turn of phrase gets me even as I write this) and it also provides some very touching moments and I will absolutely be looking out for Shirley's second novel.